manchester 'and you are?' play
Actors converse on “bleachers” during a scene of “And You Are?”
Photo by Erin Farmwald

‘And You Are?’ Debuts for Actor/Author/Director Lee

Madison Cunningham 

On Friday Apr. 21, Manchester University Theatre Society debuted “And You Are?”. The play, written, directed and starring Victor Lee (a digital media major at Manchester University), aimed to inspire its viewers to think about who they are and what defines them—as well as who they want to become.

Upon entering Cordier, audience members were greeted with smooth, jazzy music and pop tunes as they navigated the aisles to find their seats before the play would begin.

The play followed its main character, Duran, a high school student known on campus solely for his athletic work on the football team. Much like many high school students, Duran gets stuck in the stereotypical ways of high school: struggling to identify who he is when faced with the person others perceive him to be.

As if high school was not hard enough, this character finds himself facing many challenges aside from his academics, the biggest one being how he overcomes the loss of his brother and best friend, Donnell (played by Joshua Lee, sophomore).

With his head in a bad mental state due to the loss of his brother, he gets his playing time cut and is benched for the season. With his only identity as a football player stripped away, Duran acquires a new love for playing the piano, which was inspired by stories he heard of his late father. Once again, the main character begins to find a new sense of himself.

The play covered many mature themes, including mental health and how to handle grief. When the loss of a loved one hits, people tend to process their grief in separate ways. This was displayed throughout the different characters in Lee’s play.

For Duran, his grief leads him away from his friends and closer to his grandmother, played by sophomore Jisaly Romano. He also starts to pour his emotions into his music as he learns to play the piano, much like his late father once did, as compared to Duran’s mother, played by senior Sefunmi Babatunde, who decides to close herself off from her family. While grieving, she tries to stay strong for Duran, only to come off as though she is not grieving Donnell at all, displaying no emotion toward the situation.

What should the audience should take away from the play? Cast member, Erin Farmwald said: “Grief is different for everyone.” Farmwald played the role of Courtney (Court for short), an old friend of Donnell’s mother . . . and a town gossip.

Although the play had many mature and serious themes, it still brought joy and smiles to the crowd. Two scenes in particular induced laughter among the audience.

In one scene, Donell and his brother are frantically running across the stage as if they were playing football. Actor Joshua Lee, who plays Donnell, tumbled around the stage accurately, depicting the star player he was known to be across the town.

The other scene, also taking place at the school, displayed the two brothers as well as well as a “teacher” enduring a “pie” to face for a school fundraiser. As whipped cream oozed from the actors’ faces, the play halted and sent the audience into a 10-minute intermission.

Many other scenes made connections to the audience as well. Samantha Lamey, a first-year student at Manchester said: “My favorite part was probably the end, where he is singing and playing the piano for the crowd.” As a fellow musician, this particular part of the play spoke to Lamey.

The performance was not just fun for the audience, it was fun for the cast too. Farmwald also said her favorite part of the role was having fun with it since she acted as the comedic relief character. “To get into character, Megan (Megan Rodman, who was cast as Dean, Courtney’s accomplice to comedic relief) and I would just start talking in our country accents,” Farmwald said.

Even preparing for the show was fun as well. “The best part of preparing for the play was getting to know the cast more and working with new people,” Farmwald said. “I got to meet and get closer to a lot of cool people. I also loved helping Liz (a member of Cordier Crew) paint the set.”

The play brought forth a lot of common themes, ones that some people have seen in their own lives. With life constantly throwing curveballs, it can be tricky to find your place in a world that never stops turning.

Victor Lee proposed a great question as to where one might find their own place in life. So, in the words of Lee . . .

—“And You Are?”